Flu shots are being administered in the Wellness Center for students as well as faculty and staff, but the urgency to get the flu shot doesn’t seem as great this fall compared with the onset of recent flu seasons.
“Every year we promote flu shots in the fall. Certainly the year H1N1 (swine flu) hit, there was a huge amount of attention paid to flu shots, and that year we had two flu shots to administer,” said Elizabeth Ritzman, director of the Wellness Center at Dominican University.
A falloff in the incidence of swine flu across the country and continued myths about getting sick from the shots may be keeping students from lining up to get theirs this semester. Ritzman said, “We’ve given about 140 shots, but it’s still early.”
“Although there is no longer a national threat of swine flu, this does not lessen the importance of receiving a flu shot,” she said. College students may be surprised to learn that they are just as much at risk for exposure to the flu as the elderly and the children, who have weakened immune systems.
“Because of the influx of people in the classroom, college students are exposed to germs, bacterial infections and viruses they may not have fought off before,” Ritzman said. “College students also stress their immune system with sleep deprivation as well as overworking, overplaying and partying.”
“In addition to not getting enough sleep,” she said, “college students also suffer from dehydration and stress, which can put students in the high-risk category for getting the flu. Anyone who spends their day in close proximity with many other people should get a flu shot.”
“Students who work with children in child care or classroom settings are likely to experience greater exposure to flu and colds since children shed the germs, causing these illnesses more than adults,” Ritzman said.
Students typically have a tight schedule, but it only takes a few minutes to get the flu shot, and walk-ins are welcomed for students’ convenience. “College students really don’t have a week to spare in their semester in order to recover from the flu,” Ritzman said.
Flu shots are available for students and faculty in the Wellness Center for $15. They are also available at local pharmacies such as Walgreen’s and CVS.
“I would recommend it especially if you live at a dorm or with other roommates,” said Myram Farshid, a Walgreen’s pharmacist. “Some patients are at higher risk such as adults 50 years older or patients who have medical conditions like asthma or diabetes, but it is recommended for everyone to get it.”
She said the final decision is, of course, always up to the patient.
Curt Horrigan, a clinical pharmacist at Ingalls Memorial Hospital in Harvey, Ill., said, “Students, because of close proximity to other people, need to be among the first group of people to be immunized, along with healthcare workers, and those working around children.”
The Wellness Center’s Ritzman wants students to know they can’t get sick from the flu shot. “Some students think the flu shot makes you sick… it’s a myth,” she said. “It takes up to six weeks for that flu shot to teach your immune system to protect you from the flu. If you are exposed just prior to getting the shot or within that ‘build up’ phase, then yes, you can still get sick.”
And for those of us who hate getting stabbed by needles? “We even have a few of the super tiny, pain-free needles,” Ritzman said.
– Kinga Kasprzyk, Contributing Writer